10km pyramid

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After the success of 100 x 100m a few weeks ago everyone started getting very optimistic and suggesting more 10km sets.

This is how we ended up at Charlton Lido again on 12th March 2017 attempting a 10km pyramid.  We were a reduced group this time as Adrian way away skiing (I think he might have planned the trip to avoid the set) and Manda wasn’t very well.

So the set pretty much did what it says on the tin and went like this:

100m, 200m, 300m, 400m, 500m, 600m, 700m, 800m, 900m, 1,000m, 900m, 800m, 700m, 600m, 500m, 400m, 300m, 200m, 100m.

We started off on 1.40sec per 100m pace but after the first 200m David took pity on my lack of rest and we moved up to 1.44sec per 100m pace (apparently Nils’ tempo trainer only goes up in 2 sec intervals)!

The day before the set I had run over 13 miles as part of the Swimmer so basically my only goal was to finish and if possible maintaining good (or at least good for me) technique.  At least this is my excuse for the awful times I posted!

Overall it was a good set and nice to tackle the distance in a different way to 100x100m.

Watch the space for more 10km sets in the future…

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100 x 100m – 2017 edition

Early one morning I (Katie) received a text from Brian which broadly said “sooooo David, Nils and I were chatting and we are planning to do 100 x 100m soon. Are you keen?”  Challenging though it is, I love doing 100 x 100m so I was definitely in.

The negotiations then started. The first point of order was where and when.  We quickly agreed on 5 February 2017 at the Charlton Lido.  While it is a bit of a drive away Charlton is a no brainer for big sets.  Not only it is a heated 50m outdoor pool but it is also a real swimmers pool.  Everyone there has good swim etiquette which makes for a much less stressful experience.

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A peaceful lido – photo from Sally Goble

The second point was a bit harder to resolve – what time were we going to swim off? Nils and David are much faster than the rest of us and wanted to go off 100 secs.  Whenever I have done the set in the past I have always swum it off 1 min 50s i.e. 110 secs.  100 x 100m off 100 secs does have a nice ring to it though and I thought, provided I maintained a steady speed, it should be okay.

The day before the swim there was lots of whatsapp chat about nutrition – Adrian offering to bring David gin kind of bants – and nerves. There was also a last minute panic as the website said the pool was only open form 9am – 12pm.  Now the set would take nearly that amount of time so everyone was instructed to arrive dressed to swim with garmins pre-set to a 50m pool length.

Everyone obeyed instructions and we managed to get in the water for 9.02am. Nils led the first 10 reps and after the obligatory first rep keenness everything went smoothly.  I was typically coming in around 1.32 pace giving me around 8 seconds rest.  David led the second block of 10 and everything went a bit crazy with the leading four doing well under 1.30 pace.  I was like hang on a moment guys, there are 80 more to go let’s not go crazy here so Manda and I stuck to the 1.31 / 1.32 pace.  This meant that I didn’t have as much draft as the others were so far ahead but on the whole I think it was better to keep a steady pace.  Brian and Adrian led blocks 30 to 40 at a much more reasonable pace and Nils led the final 10 before the chat / toilet break.  So far so good with Manda and I holding a steady pace at the back and we were feeling good.

Again there was the obligatory post break keenness coming in at 1.26 before settling back down into the 1.31 / 1.32 pace again. We were much closer to the group now so were getting the benefit of draft so the combination of the pace and rest was very comfortable.  The early fast pace was starting to tell up front over the last 20 – 25 reps and I moved up behind Nils who was now leading.  I did feel a bit bad after spending 80 reps drafting to go in front but hopefully the others didn’t mind and they had some draft in return!   I was then effectively leading the pack as Nils was so far head.  This and trying to hit a slightly faster pace made the final 15 tough going but it was good to have a bit of a challenge at the end.

And then we were done! I was a bit disgruntled that I wasn’t allowed to do the last 2 as swim down and had to do EXTRA swim down after the end.  A combination of the short rest and discipline around the start and breaks meant that we finished in 2h 45 minutes in total only to find out afterwards that the pool was actually open until 5pm so there was no need to rush.

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Nils still smilling after 91 100s – photo from Sally Goble

Afterwards there were six very tired and wrinkly swimmers in reception with some terrible goggle marks. Despite this I thoroughly enjoyed the swim and it feels like a really achievement afterwards to have finished.

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Jubilee River Swim 2016

The Jubliee River Swim was one of our favourites of 2015. This along with the fact that this was to be the first open water race of 2016 meant that excitement levels were high leading up to the swim. Everything was going well, we had been training and had even managed a few sessions in the lido and then….the weather turned.

Now I (Katie) am a bit of a whimp about swimming in cold water. 18 or 19 is perfect but anything lower than 15 and I am not keen. The lovely weather in May meant that the water was generally not too bad. Brian and I had managed a few 4km sessions in the lido and while I wouldn’t go as far as to say I was warm, I wasn’t freezing either.

The weather in the first week of June however was AWFUL. When Brian and I turned up at the lido for a pre race warm up swim on Saturday we were greeted with the news that it was a mere 13 degrees. We swam a mile. It wasn’t pretty and it wasn’t fun. I was now seriously worried about swimming 10km in open water the next day.

The Jubliee River is an overflow channel of the Thames. For the race you swim downstream in four stretches getting out at certain points to walk around the weirs.  If you want more info about distances and format check out our blog from last year.

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Team Rainbow swam a relay

Now I do like the Jubliee River Swim.  The course is absolutely lovely and it is a really calm and peaceful swim. To be frank, however, I had a pretty torrid time this year. I spent most of the swim feeling absolutely freezing. Every time I got out to walk round a weir I was shivering. Despite the sun on my back (it finally made an appearance) I think the 14.4 degree water was just too cold for me.

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I was also pretty disappointed in my finishing time. Last year I finished in 2h 37m just 4 months after having a baby. This year I wanted to swim at least 2h 27m and I really wanted to swim  2h 20m – 2h 25m. I finally crossed the line in 2h 28m 07s. Not miles behind I guess but when you set yourself a goal sometimes a 1m might as well be 10.

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David texted me later the day to ask what when wrong? The answer is I’m not sure. Was it the cold? Did I just not commit enough? Have I not done the right kind of training? Am I just still not back to ‘normal’ after the baby? Who knows!

Despite the above I will definitely be back again next year as I do really love the swim and would recommend it to people as a good season opener. Just fingers crossed for warmer water next year!

Great North Swim 10k 2016

Fiona did the Great North swim in Windermere this year and seeing as we have never done the ‘North’ event of the Great Swim series we asked her to write us a guest blog.

ps cheery bakewell cocktails… Yum or Yuk?


I’m writing this from the heavenly super king size bed in our guest house in Windermere. Whippet and I have just had northern fish and chips (the best kind) after a surprisingly successful 10k Great North Swim. It wasn’t looking good on any front…

My training-in-earnest started later than usual this year after the shocking and heart breaking loss of my Dad in March, but I gradually eased myself back in, spurred on by wanting to keep his water baby genes alive, and a comment by Manda that “swimming is therapeutic”, which I have found it is, in a meditational way. I find that the sensory deprivation of swimming is a welcome relief from the exhausting sensory overload of everyday life. I also resolved to stop pressuring myself to train a certain number of times a week, to stop feeling guilty if I didn’t train, and to stop beating myself up if I was knackered after work and couldn’t face a hellish public lane. As soon as I removed that pressure, and allowed myself to just work and go home during the week, the tug of war instantly stopped, and I found myself wanting to swim – it was no longer a chore. Pushing and pressure are not effective motivational tools for me. Indeed, the same applies to my OU studies. So I’ve more or less been doing one or two masters sessions a week, and one or two lido sessions a week, maybe only once swimming more than three times in a single week. I think I have finally found what works for me. It’s only taken me seven seasons of open water swimming to figure that out, so don’t ever accuse me of being slow on the uptake!

The other worry about Windermere was the temperature. I thought that it could be between 13c and 16c, so I was preparing for 13c and hoping for 16c. My first lido dip of the season, also later than usual because of the chilly spring weather, was 10c in early May. Head up breaststroke skins. No point faffing with a wetsuit if I can’t get my face in, or stay in long enough to make it worth the faff. Later on, I managed a two mile skins job at 16c, but I was still behind on the sorts of distances I wanted to be covering in the lido.

My final worry was injury. I’ve had sore elbows for a year and a half now, and the odd shoulder twinge. I’ve spent a small fortune on physio, osteo, sports massage and Dan (Bullock; should be obvious to most people reading this, innit) to try to give myself the best chances of long term swimming health.

The last few days leading up to the swim weren’t too hot either. I had a nightmarish alcohol incident the previous Thursday, and a dreadful stomach on Wednesday when we drove up here, and this morning. I was psyching myself up for a DNF.

In the end then, my training fears were unfounded, my temperature fears were almost reversed when I feared I would suffer heatstroke in the day or two leading up to the swim (I’m a fragile petal, and since when was the Lake District subtropical?) and the lake was a staggering 21c on the day, my injury fears dissolved when I hit the increased volume, and I smashed my 10k time (Dorney in May 2010; 04:06) by over half an hour to bag myself a 03:35:48. Three thirty-five forty-eight!!! How the hell did that happen?! What am I capable of? Whippet rushed over to me with a glass of fizz and I sat on the grass in my swimming costume semi speechless. I’d only hoped to make the four hour cut off, and that was before taking into account all of the above adverse events.

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In conclusion, I think this was a confidence boosting training swim for Henley to Marlow in August, which I “accidentally” signed up for after a couple of my special homemade cherry Bakewell cocktails.

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109 lengths at Tooting Bec Lido with SLSC 2015

Every year since the 100 year anniversary of Tooting Bec Lido, SLSC have held a club challenge to swim the age of the lido in lengths.  Now if the lido was 25m then this would be a fun swim, however, (un)fortunately for us the lido is 100yds (91m).

2015 is the 109th anniversary of the lido so that would be a whopping 10,900 yards (9,966m) of swimming.  Last year we did the 10,800 yards distance as a 2 person relay in 17 degrees, but this year we decided early on in the year that we would tackle the distance solo as a bit of end of season fun.

So September came around and with it came the british winter a few months early.  This meant that the temperature at the lido was slowly dropping through the teens 17…16…15…14.  Please no lower!!!  The weekend before the swim we managed a 2 hour swim in the lido at 14 degrees in the glorious sunshine, however, the Thursday before the swim, we did 45 minutes swim at 7am and come 10am a colleague asked me if I was ok as my lips were blue.  Panic set in!

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The morning of the swim we were greeted with sunshine but 13 degree water. It was the best weather, if not water temperature, we could have asked for.  After arriving at the lido just after lunch, the SLSC captains set about getting us all ready.  There would be 9 of us doing the solo, of which 4 of us would be wearing wetsuits, therefore, 5 were doing it SKINS.  SKINS, my skin is tingling just typing this.

To start we walked to the deep end and entered the water there.  This threw me and Katie off as we are used to walking from the shallow end to acclimatize but couldn’t really raise an objection whilst covered in our luxury neoprene.

And we were off.  We had decided to have our first stop after 45 minutes, so after 33 lengths we stopped and I had a sip of luke warm tea and then the chat started:

Katie: How many have we done?

Me: 33 lengths

Katie screams loudly: IS THAT IT?

Now at this point Katie was about to offer to take the lead, however, she didn’t have a chance to offer as I rapidly set off again in fear of being shouted at for taking too long at feeds.

This meant there was no conversation about when to next feed.  I thought it would be good to do 42 lengths this time.  You would break the back of it by taking you to 75 and therefore, would leave only 34 to finish.  However, Katie was thinking I was going to do around 30 lengths so started worrying once we got higher than that, that I wasn’t going to let her stop again until the finish.

I did stop, which allowed for more, now cold, tea and allowed Katie to take the lead for the final 34.  By this point I couldn’t feel my feet properly, which makes for a bizarre sensation when pushing off the wall at a turn and I also realised that I had been so preoccupied about the cold in the build up I had forgotten about the distance actually being a challenge in itself and my arms started aching.

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109 lengths later we were finished. 2 hours 39 minutes in the lido. It was a challenge for so many reasons but mainly, the cold and distance.  Others commented on the tedious nature of the lap swimming for that long, however, by swimming as a team it was like you always had company and I was never bored.  This was the first race since Max’s arrival that Katie and I swam together (it would have been bridge to bridge if it wasn’t for her seeing my warning signs!) so for me it was a definite season highlight.

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Next year it is 110 lengths, so as an even number of lengths it might be back to a team mermaids relay instead.

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Thanks to SLSC for a great event and special thanks to Nicola and Mandy for their organisation and support.

Jubilee River swim 2015

On Sunday 7 June 2015 Team Mermaids and friends went on an outing to the Jubilee River swim put on by My Sporting Times. This beautiful event is a 10km downstream swim ending up at the Thames Valley Athletic Centre in Eton. Well I say it is 10k but really it is c.9.5km of swimming with about 500m of walking/running/hobbling over the weirs as body surfing down the weirs is not allowed. There goes the good GO-PRO footage.

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The day started at the Thames Valley Athletic Centre (swim finish as well) from where we got buses to the start of the swim near Taplow. The swim started off in waves. The yellow (social) wave went off at 9.30, pink at 10am and finally the purple wave at 10.30. I (Katie) must have been being very conservative in my estimate of how long the swim would take me as I was in the pink wave much to Manda’s annoyance as this meant we needed to arrive an hour earlier aka an hour less in bed! On the plus side for me I meant that I was out near the front of my wave so got to swim unimpeded for most of the race giving me plenty of time to enjoy the scenery.

The starting swim was 1.9km down to the first weir. This was a good warm-up for the second stretch which is the longest at 3.5km. The weather was beautiful and with the lovely scenery to look at it felt like the swims were going by quickly. The third part was 2.6k before the final stretch of 1.5km. I’m glad that after the ‘warm up’ the length of each swim decreased in distance as this made each stretch mentally easier to complete. The finish came as somewhat of a surprise as I thought I had a while left to go and it wasn’t until I was about 30m away that I realised I was at the end.

There was a pretty helpful current which made you feel like you were zipping a long and made for some good times! Manda and Brian swam together and finished in a time of 2.17. Manda was second female – well done Manda! I finished in 2.37 which I was pleased with given my general levels of fitness and training. Special shout out to uncle Davy who competed the course in the super fast time of 2.09 to finish 5th…although we had to tell him off at the end as he had swum all bar 50m of it on someone’s (Steve Mott) toes and then sprinted past them at the end. Not cricket!

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Overall a lovely course for a little paddle, a well organised event and the sunshine was the icing on the cake (which we ate plenty of afterwards)!

Race review
Cost: The race cost £75 (£100 if you want to split and do as a relay). It comparison to other UK end to end 10ks this is reasonable and if you are going to “invest” in one 10k.. this is the one to do.

Organisation: Generally well organised although the trip on the bus to the start seemed to take a while which was a bit frustrating.

Challenge: The end to end nature of this swim and descending sections make for an easier mental challenge than if you were looping around a lake. 10k is a challenge but with the gentle current dragging you along it is a great swim for a 10k first timer.

Dorney Lake 10k May 2012 – 10k swimming is an awfully long way

In 2011 Manda and I had done a lot of shorter open water races so we decided that 2012 was the year for a much longer challenge. We also need to do more long distance swimming in preparation for the Manhattan Island Relays in August. We therefore decided to do a 10km swim. 10km is swimming’s equivalent of a marathon and is the only open water race which is currently an Olympic event.

We trained in earnest over the winter doing lots of long sessions in Crystal Palace. We even attacked the dreaded 100×100 session. Afterwards I was so exhausted I bumped my car into things twice on the way home.

The event we had entered was a human race event at Dorney Lake at the end of May. As the day on the race approached we started to panic as the weather was still cold which meant that the water was a very chilly 13 degrees. We were struggling to stay in for an hour let alone the nearly three we would need to complete the swim. We were furiously ordering neoprene gloves and booties to wear. Luckily the swimming gods were shinning on us and the week before the race was scorching hot which warmed the water up nicely to a lovely 18 degrees.
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We had agreed that we would try and swim together but with 200 plus people not losing each other as the start was going to be a challenge. Somehow after about 200m we did managed to find each other and we started off on the 5 lap course. For the first three laps we managed to stay pretty much on 1.30 pace (lap 1 30m 22s, lap 2 30m 52s, lap 3 30m 33s). At the end of the third lap we stopped for a drink at the feed stop. I think Manda wanted to stay there all day so I had to remind her we were in a race and that we needed to get going again! We slipped off pace a bit for the fourth lap (34m 33s) but manage to bring it back a somewhat on the fifth (32m 15s). We exited together in a time of 2 hours 37 minutes.
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Very tired but happy we went for a celebratory Byron Burger and a well-earned Oreo cookie milkshake.